Self-care is defined by the World Health Organization as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” More broadly, self-care is described as an individual nurturing their spiritual, emotional, and physical health. It’s an important part of keeping your mental health in a healthy state. Even better, self-care doesn’t need to be very expensive. You don’t need to spend a ton of money of expensive spa days, massage treatments, or “retail therapy” in order to feel rested and refreshed. There are dozens of ways you can practice self-care for very little money (or even none at all). In many cases, proper self-care only truly requires a commitment of your time — time that you devote to yourself. In this article, we offer several suggestions on how you can practice self-care on a budget.
Go For a Walk
Nothing clears the head quite like a walk. Whether you stretch your legs by taking the dog around the block or go hiking in the woods, a walk can be extremely therapeutic. Fresh air and some sunshine has been scientifically proven to help improve your physical and mental health. An invigorating walk will get your blood pumping and let you connect with mother nature.
A walk can also be a great way to take a break from computer screens or to help to break-up the workday. Any type of outdoor or nature excursion can be beneficial and a great way to practice self-care. Best of all, it’s completely free to do. No money required. So do yourself a favor and get outside today.
Adopt a Pet (From a Local Shelter)
Pets can be a great emotional support. There’s a reason for the term “therapy dog.” The unconditional love that we get from dogs, cats, and other animals can help to nurture the soul and enrich our lives. There’s nothing better than seeing how happy a pet is to see us walk through the door at the end of the day.
So why not go out and get a new pet? For some, cost is still a factor. Owning a pet can potentially strain an already tight budget. There’s food, toys/accessories, plus medical costs that can dent your finances. However, it’s a trade-off that many pet owners are happy to make. You can likely adopt a pet from a local shelter relatively cheaply (maybe even for free). Most shelters just want a safe and reliable home for their animals. If you afford the day-to-day costs of owning a furry friend, adopting one can be a big boost to your mental health.
Visit The Library
Your local library is a great resource. Within the walls of a library you can find knowledge, entertainment, and even enlightenment from the countless books available. Best of all, it costs nothing to get a library card and start borrowing books. Just be sure to return them in time to avoid those annoying late fees.
If you haven’t visited a library lately, you might be amazed at how they’ve evolved. Many libraries also lend out DVD movies and video games. There’s plenty of community computers with internet access. They also tend to run reading or hobby clubs, for both children and adults. Many of them schedule guest speakers or arts and crafts demonstrations too. In short, libraries these days are so much more than just a place to borrow a new book. And the cost is almost always free.
Workout at Home
Working out at home has become popular during the pandemic, since many community gyms and fitness centers were forced to close. While some people bought (or rented) expensive exercise equipment, these things aren’t necessary for you to enjoy a good home workout.
You can get a good workout for free by doing push-ups, crunches, and planking in place. There are also lots of workout videos available for free on YouTube. Or you can download one of the countless exercise apps available, to guide you through a scheduled workout routine. If you’re up for it, you can upgrade your previously-mentioned walk into a run or bike around your neighborhood. Your body will love the exercise, and you didn’t even been to pay a gym membership or buy expensive equipment to get it.
Speaking of spirit, another great way to nourish one’s inner self is through meditation. A completely free activity, meditation enables you to clear your mind and center yourself. It’s a proven way to lessen stress and become more focused and at peace with oneself.
Meditation is so effective at renewing the mind and spirit that many people practice it for hours each day. However, most experts seem to agree that 30-to-60 minutes of regular meditation is enough for most people. If you don’t know where to start, the internet is again your friend here. Find a YouTube channel or smartphone app with guided meditation activities. Hopefully, regular meditation will reduce your stress, alter your mood, and help you gain perspective on life.
Meet Up With Friends and Family
Few things are as positive and beneficial as time spent with family and friends. During the pandemic, many of us were too isolated for too long. We really missed out on those important social connections. This can be rectified now, as pandemic restrictions are starting to lift is most places.
Why not have family over for a barbecue? Or meet up with friends for a patio brunch or afternoon drink? Time spent talking and catching up can be reinvigorating. It reminds us that we’re not alone and all share a human connection. Socializing is one of the best ways to give our mood a lift and bring a smile back to our face.
Another great way to socialize is by volunteering. Not only do you meet new people through volunteering and make meaningful personal connections, but it’s also a great way to give back to your community. You’ll feel good about yourself knowing that you spent some time helping others.
Volunteering has been on the rise in recent years, but it naturally took a hit during the pandemic. Now, volunteering is making a comeback again. Whether you help at a local soup kitchen, work in a community garden, or assist at a retirement home, volunteering can provide a huge spiritual lift.
Organize Your Finances
This suggestion might seem a bit strange at first. However, taking some time to organize your finances can be a big stress reliever. Money is regularly cited as one of the main sources of stress in people’s lives. So if you can take the time to sort out your budget, cut out unnecessary expenses, and have a better understanding of your financial situation, you’ll feel better.
Lots of people experience stress because they don’t seem to have an accurate idea of how much money they have coming in, where it goes every month, or how bad their debt load is. Confronting these hard realities will hopefully provide you with the clarity and confidence you need to feel like you have control over your own finances.
Take a Break From Screens
Studies show that our smartphones and computer screens are a major source of stress. Constantly getting alerts, texts, and emails (that we feel compelled to respond to) is exhausting. It wears us down emotionally over time. Not to mention the 24-hour news cycle constantly feeding up the latest terrible news from around the world. Taking a break from your phone can be very therapeutic.
The break doesn’t have to be overly long. Even an hour or two spent without looking at a screen can have a positive impact on your mood. Think of it as a spa day for your brain. Put down the phone and clear your head before you come back to it. You’ll be glad you did. Most smart devices now offer some sort of Screen Time restrictions, that you can customize. If you’re struggling to disconnect, try using these software aides to help schedule some screen-free time.
Go Out To a Restaurant
Cooking and cleaning can be exhausting and stressful. Making meals day-after-day, and cleaning up after them, takes a toll on us physically and emotionally. So it’s nice to take a break from the grind and treat yourself to a meal in a restaurant.
Of course, eating out can be expensive. Since we’re talking about self-care on a budget in this article, we should remind you that you can’t eat out all the time. The costs would add up quickly. However, taking time to enjoy a meal that someone else prepared is a nice treat. It can help provide a sense of rejuvenation. A meal out with friends or loved ones can be extra special.
Re-Watch a Favorite Movie
We all have favorite movies that we enjoy. Taking some time to re-watch one can be an inexpensive way to rest, recharge, and revitalize our spirit. Watching a movie we enjoy (but haven’t seen in a while) can really help to lift our spirits.
The key here is to really take the time to focus on the film. Too often, our hectic lives don’t give us a couple hours to sit down and focus on one single thing. So set everything aside — put your phone in another room if you have — and enjoy that all-time classic. It can be an important part of maintaining your spiritual health. Hopefully, the break from your normal responsibilities will help you return to the daily grind feeling renewed and raring to go again.
The Bottom Line
Self-care doesn’t need to be expensive. There are plenty of things we can do in our daily lives to rest and reinvigorate our spirit, mind, bodies, and emotions. In most cases, self-care involves taking a break from our daily routine and making time to do something we enjoy.
Connections with other people, whether family, friends or pets, are also important to our emotional health. Making an effort to meet with people whose company we enjoy and who we care about is critically important to helping us stay grounded and happy. So, practice some self-care today and do something you enjoy or visit with some you like.